Right around the time I graduated college in 2014, I made one of the best decisions for my business.. I started using a project management app to keep up with all of the work I had at one time. This was one of the best things I could have done, and at this point it seems like almost all business owners, especially designers, are using one app or the other to keep track of their projects. However, I still see the occasional question about how a project management app can really benefit you, and honestly, there are too many ways to count :)
Over the course of the past three years, I’ve gone back and forth with different apps and even had a short time period where I dared to run things straight out of my inbox. However, I keep coming back to my favorite app, Asana, to manage my client projects. I actually love this app so much that I’ve used it to collaborate with Krista (when we were bringing Coded Creative to life), maintain my editorial calendar, and keep other projects in my business on track. Needless to say, a good project management app can be used for more than just your design projects.
However, today I wanted to get straight to the point and share with you 6 reasons that all designers should be using a project management app in their business with clients. I have a feeling that after you read this post, you’ll be itching to try one out for yourself if you haven’t already.
View weekly + overall tasks at a glance
If you’ve been running your client projects out of your inbox, then you know how easy it is for your process to get disorganized and tasks get left behind while you’re working. I talked about this a little bit last week, but keeping your process organized is one of the key reasons I think all designers should use a project management app.
Visually organizing your project with a tool like this allows you to quickly login, see what needs to be done for the week compared to what needs to get done for the remainder of the project and then actually get to work. No more hunting down email threads or trying to make sure you write everything down in a notebook. While you’ll obviously get your list view of your project tasks, most project management apps, like Asana, also give you a calendar view so you can see how things are progressing quickly and easily.
Keeps projects on track and running smoothly
Going right along with my last point, one of the biggest struggles I see other designers having is keeping their projects on track. I know this all to well because I’ve definitely been there. The good news is that with a project management app you’re not only putting in the overall project tasks, but you’re also including due dates for both you and your clients.
This is one of the biggest game changers when it comes to working with clients in a project management app. Almost every single project I’ve run straight out of my inbox has resulted in far more time than I usually allow for going by before I can simply get feedback. When you’re able to set due dates on tasks assigned to your client (like providing content or feedback) in an app, the app will automatically send them a reminder of what’s due, which means it’s easier and less stressful for you to keep your projects on track and running smoothly.
Handle all communication outside of your inbox
One of the most frustrating things about working out of your inbox is that it’s inevitable that you’ll miss some communication from your clients. I’ve never been totally swamped with emails (except for when I come back from vacation), but I’ve still had those moments where a new email thread gets started and I miss it or I’ve missed a certain point via email because there are so many things we’re talking about at once.
Using a project management app allows you to communicate with your clients outside of your inbox. This is really great because you don’t have to worry about getting those multiple email threads going or spending hours searching through one thread looking for your feedback. It also gives you a chance to move your projects forward without being distracted by lots of other emails.
Receive content and upload project files in one place
Aside from communication one of the most important parts of your projects is being able to receive content from your clients (particularly if you’re a web designer) and send your mockups over to them. Obviously you can do this via email, but this is where things can start to get a little frustrating if you don’t have your emails organized.
A project management app will give you one place to receive and send important project files in an organized way. You won’t have to worry about losing your client’s website copy or finding what email you sent your mockups in so you can find the feedback on it. This is one of the key reasons I started using a project management app several years ago. My inbox is definitely organized, but it’s still easy to lose important things when mixed up in the rest of your emails.
Easily view your workload which means less overbooking
When I first started using a project management app, I didn’t have as many clients because I was still wrapping up my final year in college. However, by the end of that same year I remember having about 10 clients all at once. I don’t know about you, but that means I had a few months that were pure chaos. It wasn’t until I started getting smarter about booking myself out that I realized my project management app could help me do that as well.
When you’re getting ready to book a new project, use your project management app to view your workload and when your next open spot is. This won’t work quite as well if you don’t set due dates, and it definitely won’t work if you don’t know how long your projects take. However, if you’ve found yourself overbooking and working yourself into the ground because of it, then it’s important to at least take advantage of the due date feature in your project management app so you can quickly view your calendar and see when you have an opening.
Manage your entire business in just one place
If you’re anything like me, once you start getting your client projects organized in your project management app, then you’ll be itching to figure out how you can expand that same organization to the rest of your business.
My favorite thing about using a project management app, particularly one like Asana, is that you can use it for so much more than just handling projects with clients. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I literally use Asana for all different areas in my business and beyond. Not all apps make it easy to use like this, which is why you might want to test out a few different ones to see what can give you the most bang for your buck.
Do you use a project management app?
If you’re already using a project management app, I’d love to hear how it’s helped change your business. However, if you’re not yet using one, be sure to let me know in the comments if you’ll be trying one out after reading this post!
P.s. If you’re not yet using one or aren’t sure how to use it for your design business, keep an eye out on this space! I have something that’ll help with that coming in a few weeks!